NFL players are three times as prone to abusing opioid pain medications due the multiple injuries typically sustained during a career in professional football. Because of this, many are now looking to cannabis as a replacement for dangerously addictive pharmaceutical painkillers.
The Gridiron Cannabis Coalition (GCC), a group consisting primarily of former and current NFL athletes, is helping to fund research into the use of cannabis oil as an alternative to opioid painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin.
The research is being conducted under the guidance of Constance Finley, founder and CEO of Constance Therapeutics, who said:
"I was inspired to work with GCC because so many athletes have been failed by traditional medicine, just as I have. After cycling through several prescription drugs with the hope of finding relief from my rare autoimmune disease, I reluctantly tried medical cannabis. This ended up being the decision that would save my life...
"It is now my mission to help others seeking alternatives to what are often highly addictive pharmaceuticals."
Cannabis oil may serve as a viable alternative to opioids, which are not only highly intoxicating and addictive, but can also cause damage to the nervous system - among other negative health effects including disruption of endocrine and respiratory function.
Each year, an estimated 400 NFL players are injured - and many end up with chronic pain that may last for a lifetime.
NFL still says no to cannabis
Under current NFL rules - some of the strictest in the sports world - medical marijuana is forbidden. Even the use of low-THC cannabidiol (CBD) may trigger a positive cannabis test result. The cannabis oil being tested for the study contains higher levels of THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana).
Cannabis oil made from the whole plant is believed to be more effective in alleviating pain than isolated compounds like CBD.
One study reported an "entourage effect" - an interaction between all the plant's components that may provide more benefits than treatment with isolated compounds.
Marijuana is still classified by the federal government as a Schedule I drug - on a par with heroin and cocaine - and is treated as such by the NFL, which released a statement that said:
"[M]edical experts have not recommended making a change or revisiting our collectively-bargained policy and approach related to marijuana, and our position on its use remains consistent with federal law and workplace policies across the country."
As Ross Benes noted in a recent Rolling Stone article, the NFL's stance on marijuana is rather "peculiar" considering the lawsuits against team doctors for over-prescribing opioid painkillers and the fact that the league is "mired in concussion suits and there's a possibility that cannabis could reduce the impact of head trauma."
Big Pharma playing the backfield
The continued prohibition of marijuana is largely due to pressure from Big Pharma, which generates billions in profits from the sale of opioid painkillers and sees the legalization of marijuana as a threat - if people have access to an inexpensive and effective natural painkiller they can grow at home, Big Pharma loses big money.
And their influence appears to extend to the NFL, too - former Chicago quarterback Jim McMahon directly accused the NFL of being in "cahoots" with Big Pharma. "They want you taking their pills," he told Sports Illustrated. "My whole career they were pushing pills on me."
Several marijuana initiatives will be on state ballots this November, and it appears that the entire nation may now be on track towards legalizing marijuana for medical purposes - once and for all. It may not be what Big Pharma wants, but it's what 90 percent of Americans want.
If you have marijuana initiatives on the ballot in your state, be sure to vote yes for legalization and increased access for those who need and deserve to make use its natural healing benefits.